Is Shambles really the inspiration for Diagon Alley in Harry Potter? JK Rowling speaks out

Magical… Shambles, York. Photograph: Simon Peach/PA Wire
22 May 2020 @ 8.16 am
| News

Every day – in normal times – tour guides would bring groups of visitors to Shambles and declare it to be the inspiration for Diagon Alley, the shopping street in the Harry Potter books.

Some are more specific, saying it inspired the designers who built the movie version of the fictional shopping street.

But the question always remained: was it really in author JK Rowling’s mind when she first created the cobbled street filled – with shops “selling robes, shops selling telescopes and strange silver instruments Harry had never seen before”?

As far as we know the Edinburgh-based author has never spoken on the subject before. Until now.

Shopkeeper marketing

Rowling is a huge Twitter fan and she started something among her 14.6 million followers with this thought: “I was thinking of putting a section on my website about all the alleged inspirations and birthplaces of Potter.”

Many people responded asking about real locations said to be linked to the Potterverse. They included York artist Jane Duke who wrote: “There are businesses here in York who will fight anyone (probably including you….) who doubts that Diagon Alley is actually the Shambles.

“I would not recommend coming between a Yorkshire shopkeeper and their marketing.”

JK Rowling. Photograph: PA Wire

To which JK replied:

  • Well, looks like I’ve got a fight on my hands, because I’ve never seen or been to the Shambles…

So now we know.

‘Don’t blame me!’

We still think it’s spellbinding

Jane then said this:

Today Shambles is home to the hugely popular Harry Potter emporium The Shop That Must Not Be Named, and two other copycat stores, The World of Wizardry and The Boy Wizard.

And more recently The Potions Cauldron opened, selling enchanting drinks and housing a secret room with a model of Hogwarts.

When tourists are allowed back they will no doubt return in droves to browse the Potter merch on Shambles. Because, even if it wasn’t JK’s inspiration, it has plenty of real-life magic.